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Home North Carolina Wake County City of Raleigh Historical Markers Old Breastworks

Old Breastworks

Wake Forest Road at Poplar Street, Raleigh, NC, USA
  North Carolina State Historical Marker
    North Carolina State
Historical Marker
    Marker Text:
"Breastworks were thrown up around Raleigh, 1863, by order of Governor Vance, for protection against Federal raids. Remains are 1/3 mile W."
     In 1863 the citizens of Raleigh gathered at the Wake County courthouse to petition the city and the state to fortify the capital city against an invasion by the Union army. Union troops were approaching Raleigh from the east and citizens feared the worst. On July 6, Governor Zebulon B. Vance and former Governor Thomas Bragg endorsed the decision to create a fortification of breastworks around the city.

     Governor Vance ordered militia colonels in Wake County to gather up male slaves between the ages of sixteen and forty-five who were of good health and to collect one slave for every ten working men of a slaveowner. The men were then brought to the courthouse and set to work on the fortification until it was complete. By the account of a letter writer to a Raleigh newspaper in 1936, the fortifications, constructed primarily in 1864, were never manned and were thrown up strictly as a precaution in the event that fighting reached the Capital City.

     The remains of the earthen breastworks could still be seen until the second half of the twentieth century in the vicinity of Peace College and other locations. A detailed map of the fortifications, prepared by a Union army engineer, can be found in the North Carolina State Archives and in Elizabeth Reid Murray’s history of Wake County.

Elizabeth Reid Murray, Wake: Capital County of North Carolina, Volume I, Prehistory through Centennial (1983)
Raleigh Register, July 8 and 15, 1863
(Raleigh) State Journal, July 8, 1865
(Raleigh) News and Observer, July 26 and 29, 1936